Crucial PC2700 Memory Review 7th December 2002
Today we'll be looking at the practical difference that various memory modules make, in particular Crucial's PC2700 DDR333MHz DIMMs. Crucial are Micron's retail division and have been very successful in offering products direct to the consumer, often with free shipping in many locales. This has given them some insulation in the highly turbulent memory market place where prices fluctuate on a daily basis. Here's what they look like:
These are single-sided DIMMs so they will be easier to install and are not too high so there should be no intrusion onto hard drive/cage space. Conventional wisdom dictates that PC3200 memory is twice as fast as PC1600 etc. so let's take a look at some bandwidth figures:
This seems to be borne out here and we see large apparent differences between speed grades. But this is all theoretical and so what impact does memory have on practical performance. We put the Crucial memory into an NForce2 board with an Athlon XP2700 and benchmarked Unreal Tournament 2003 against a P4 system using PC1066 RIMMs.
Why isn't the PC1066 memory (quad-pumped) thrashing the Crucial memory? Let's take a look at the Botmatch scores:
Well, our humble PC2700 memory has pulled ahead of the much more expensive (and faster) PC1066 memory. So what does this tell us? The logical conclusion (and one which we can support with dozens of benchmarks) is that memory performance does not make a very big difference in practice. Having said that there are some applications where memory performance is very important indeed but this is very rare and in general you will get a 2-3% improvement in performance going from say, PC2700 to PC3200. This doesn't mean that you should not tweak your BIOS settings to optimize your performance as you may be able to get 5% or more of extra speed out of your system by doing this, just remember to make the changes one at a time so you can roll back if you get instability.
We had no problem running the Crucial memory at CAS level 2 (it is rated at 2.5). We have always found in the past that while some manufacturers advertise their memory at the highest spec they can reliably run at, Crucial memory is more conservatively advertised and always has room for expansion and can typically be run at fairly aggressive settings and a good 10% overclock before showing problems.
Some people spend huge sums of money buying the fastest memory available, gaining a relatively small return on their investment. While it's true that Crucial do not offer DDR400 memory yet (this will change with JEDEC ratification - a process hastened by Intel's support of DDR400 in it's upcoming chipsets) their PC2700 memory is every bit as good as Corsair's which can cost up to twice as much and a Corsair PC3200 memory stick can cost three times as much as the same amount of Crucial PC2700 memory. Is it worth paying double the money for a 2-3% increase in performance? I think only those with money to burn or die-hard power users will say yes to that. Even then they would undoubtedly be better off spending the money on twice as much Crucial memory - gaining a greater boost from having more RAM than with half as much RAM but of a faster speed. From a price/performance viewpoint Crucial memory can't be beaten and almost always you will find unbranded memory no cheaper. The dangers of using unbranded memory are numerous and left to the reader's imagination.
To the average PC user, when it comes to memory, price is more important than speed and in this case it is borne out by our testing. Keep up the good work Crucial and don't wait too long to add DDR400 memory to your range - a lot of people are eagerly waiting.
We would like to thank Crucial UK for the review sample memory.
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